Labour on Ukraine in Parliament
Shadow Minister for the Armed Forces, Luke Pollard, replying to a statement on Ukraine from Ben Wallace in Parliament 20 October 2022.
This is just a sample, to show that Labour and Conservative speak with one voice on Ukraine. On that particular day, both congratulate themselves on the British ability to act in a reasoned and considered manner to avoid accidental encounters with the enemy. Everything that we do is “considered and calibrated”, says Ben Wallace.
I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement. At a time of much Government chaos, I also thank him for his calmness and professionalism in the job.
The incident with the RAF Rivet Joint surveillance aircraft that the Defence Secretary described is serious. He outlines that the correct steps have been taken, the malfunction has been confirmed and the incident has now been resolved. It is welcome that RAF flights have restarted and that there has been a clear recognition from Russia that the aircraft was flying in international airspace. The RAF has this House’s full support; we are grateful to it, to other UK forces and to our NATO allies for their work protecting the alliance and protecting freedom. The incident is a serious reminder of the importance of avoiding escalation and miscalculation while continuing with the UK’s united support for Ukraine.
Almost eight months on from Russia’s criminal invasion of Ukraine, I pay tribute to the remarkable and continuing Ukrainian resolve in the face of Russian aggression. Putin has made a huge strategic miscalculation in invading Ukraine, which has resulted in Russian forces suffering heavy losses: the MOD estimates 25,000 Russian dead, tens of thousands injured, tens of thousands who have deserted and more than 4,000 armoured and protected vehicles destroyed.
At a time when Ukrainians have shown incredible resilience in defending their homeland, Britain must honour their bravery by remaining unwavering in our support for Ukraine. I am grateful that the Defence Secretary has set out the UK’s continued support under Operation Interflex for training Ukrainian forces; we thank UK members of the armed forces for their work. I would also be grateful if he confirmed when the promised action plan for continuing UK support for Ukraine will be published, outlining the type and quantity of military, economic and diplomatic support that Ukraine will receive. Putin needs to be in no doubt that our resolve will continue; whether the Defence Secretary’s party or mine is in charge, that will not change.
I think it is time the Defence Secretary made a statement about the planned drawback of troops from Estonia and about how that decision can be properly scrutinised. I would also be grateful if he set out whether orders have been placed for the replacement next-generation light anti-tank weapon missiles and when our stockpiles will be replenished.
There has been a concerning increase in Iranian drone activity. I would be grateful if the Secretary of State set out what additional support can be provided by the UK and our allies to ensure that the Shahed 136 and Mohajer 6 drones from Iran can be properly intercepted and defeated to protect Ukrainian infrastructure.
In his speech last night, the Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, threw into doubt the planned rise in defence spending to 3% of GDP, referring to it as a “potential increase”. I would be grateful if the Defence Secretary spelled out the Government’s position on defence spending and whether the increase is confirmed or—as Admiral Sir Tony Radakin says—only potential.
The Opposition’s support for Ukraine is unwavering. The Defence Secretary knows that he has Labour’s full support in the provision of military aid to our friends in Ukraine. Putin must fail in his aggression. As we enter an incredibly difficult period of the war, with cold weather drawing in, we must make sure that we support not only our friends fighting in Ukraine, but those civilians who are there fighting on its behalf. I would be grateful if the Defence Secretary set out what support the UK can offer to civilian infrastructure. The protection of energy sources is particularly important, not only for Ukrainian industry but for the Ukrainian people.